All the big issues tackled on ‘The Estate’ - defends the producer

THE Estate’s series producer and director has defended the depiction of Ballysally in the BBC NI show.

Natalie Maynes says the documentary is a warts and all look at a typical Northern Ireland estate.

She said: “The Estate does not flinch from difficult issues — poverty, the benefits trap, alcohol addiction, disability, relationships and more, are all tackled frankly.

“We wanted to tell the untold stories of ordinary people living in Ballysally in an extraordinarily tough year of cutbacks, unemployment and recession.”

Home to 3,000 residents, filming in Ballysally began last November.

Maynes insists the programme lifts the lid on what it’s like to live in the area.

“Because we spent a year with families and individuals, The Estate gets under the skin of the place and its residents,” she said.

“We set out to make a series of films that reflect the lives of people in a particular place.

“The Estate is a window into a place shared by men, women and children who tell it like it is.”

Speaking on the Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster on Thursday, Maynes said it was “brave of the BBC” to let the film makers spend a year filming in Ballysally.

She said they chose Ballysally because they wanted to come out of Belfast and use “other voices”. They picked the Coleraine estate, she said, because it has twice the national average of people on housing benefit and is one of the biggest estates in Northern Ireland.

She said that they had leaflet-dropped all 3,000 houses in the estate asking people to tell their stories.

“People so far have watched one eighth of this series and I would appeal to people to stick with it and judge it in the round.

“There are lots more characters still to appear.”

She also defended the show saying that one third of the first episode featured the Doherty family including the father who worked anti-social hours because he did not want to go on the dole.

“This was not about people being portrayed as spongers.

“Every person who appeared in last Monday’s programme was delighted and happy with the programme. The Doherty family for example said that if we came back in ten years time they would take part in it again.

“We didn’t make the series about these people, we made it with them.”